Work on Hummel Bridge could begin next year

If all goes as planned, work on Hummel Bridge could begin next year.

Speaking with Powassan’s mayor, Peter McIsaac, he was confident that provincial funding will come through for the project, and once that clears, work can begin to replace the bridge that was closed on May 31st.

“It’s a situation that we’re going to do our best to quickly rectify and get back to normal,” Mayor McIsaac said of the situation. The bridge connects Powassan and Nipissing Township, and both councils are working toward a solution.

“We’re both on board to do it,” Mayor McIsaac said. “We’re just hoping we can get some third-party senior government funding to help us.”

See: Postpone your plans to cross Hummel Bridge

HP Engineering recently provided a report to both councils to elaborate on its findings during the last bridge inspection, which resulted in the closure. The bridge’s deck is pulling away from the structure, and the engineers noted concrete was falling off when a vehicle drove over it.

The firm estimated a new bridge will cost around $3.5 million.

“We put money aside every budget for infrastructure,” the mayor said when asked if the town had been saving for a new bridge. “We didn’t expect this to happen, so our infrastructure money is going to other things in 2024.”

By law, every two years Ontario demands a bridge inspection, if said bridge’s span is greater than three meters (just under 10 feet). “We expected this structure in this inspection to not have conditions put on it and we didn’t expect this.”

See: Don’t expect to drive Hummel Bridge anytime soon

Mayor McIsaac explained that he and Mayor Tom Piper of Nipissing Township “have been talking about Hummel Bridge for a number of years,” and requests were made to the province in the past for funding, requests which were denied.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario is hosting its conference in August, and Piper and McIsaac plan to speak with the Minister of Infrastructure about the bridge, Mayor McIsaac said. He hopes the Ministry “will push Hummel Bridge to the top of the funding list.”

He noted that even if the town had the money to buy a new bridge, there would still be a considerable wait. “We wouldn’t have the design or the studies that are required to even go ahead to do the construction in 2024.”

His estimate is that with preparing plans and securing funding, “at the very earliest just to get everything in place to put a tender out would be 2025.”

Asked if sustained high water, or intense currents sped up the bridge’s deterioration, the mayor said “I haven’t heard anything like that. The main concern of the engineer was the bridge deck,” he added. Rising water “doesn’t get anywhere near the deck.”

“People are going to be upset” with the closure, Mayor McIsaac acknowledged. “The bridge is 100 years old. We knew it was coming, that its life cycle was coming to an end, but we expected to get another 10 years out of it.”

“Like I said, this was a surprise,” he emphasized. “And it’s not the greatest surprise in the world.”

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,